Stolen directly from 서거정
(1420-1488)'s 《東人詩話 동인시화》 with no input by the Sanchon Hunjang. ^^ Don't worry about my
plagiarism. 서거정 lifted the introductory episode directly from 歐陽修 구양수
(1007-1072)'s 《六一詩話 육일시화 [Mr.] One-of-six
's Poetry Talks》.
☞ 東: 동녘 동, 人: 사람 인, 詩: 시 시, 話: 말씀 화, 歐: 게워낼 구, 陽: 볕 양, 修: 닦을 수, 六: 여섯 륙, 一: 한 일.
舍人 陳從易 사인 진종역 of the Song Dynasty was reading a collection of poetry by uber famous Tang poet 杜甫 두보
. Unfortunately, 사인선생 had picked his book up on the cheap at one of those book warehouse clearance sales and there was a big smear where a word used to be. What he still could
read went like this:
☞ 舍: 집 사, 陳: 늘어놓을 진, 從: 따를 종, 易: 바꿀 역, 杜: 막을 두, 甫: 겨우 보.
身輕一鳥■, Body light, one bird [SMUDGE];
槍急萬人呼! Spears quick, ten thousand people shout!
☞ 身: 몸 신, 輕: 가벼울 경, 一: 한 일, 鳥: 새 조, ■: smudge 네모,
槍: 무기 창, 急: 급할 급, 萬: 일만 만, 呼: 부를 호.
사 인선생 was very curious what word belonged in this space. He tried looking through from the back of the page and every other trick he could think of to get a hint as to what the word was supposed to be. All to no avail. Since the lines had to be parallel, it gave him room to start guessing words that would fit in the gap. If he could find the one word that fit the best, presumably this would have been the word that the master of poetry, 두보, would have used. Finding the missing character became a bit of an obsession and he called his friends over to play his guess-the-missing-word game. They tried "is swift 疾," "falls 落," "rises 起" and "descends 下," all without success.
☞ 疾: 병 질, 落: 떨어질 락, 起: 일어날 기, 下: 아래 하.Give their little game a try yourself. What do
you think goes in the blank?
Later 사인선생 came across a good copy of the same book with clear printing. He thumbed to the page...
the right answer was...
"passes by 過."
☞ 過: 지날 과.東坡 동파 蘇軾 소식
once wrote a poem about a sick crane that included the line
三尺長脛閣瘦軀 Three-foot long shins topped by a skinny body
☞ 三: 석 삼, 尺: 자 척, 長: 길 장, 脛: 정강이 경, 閣: 문설주 각, 瘦: 파리할 수, 軀: 몸 구.
Then one day he covered up the word 閣, so it read "Three-foot long shins ????? a skinny body" and had 任德 임덕 guess what the word was. 임 was unable to guess the hidden word. 동파선생 slowly uncovered it and showed him that the right word was "topped by 閣."
☞ 任: 맡길 임, 德: 덕 덕.
As you can see, each individual word in a poem is agonized over at length by the poet and his/her commenters. This has implications for glib translators who just rush through, not bothering to analyze why the original poet may have selected a specific word over its rivals. If the original poet put that much care and thought into the original, doesn't the professional translator owe a bit more in faithfulness to the text?